The Sporting Chameleon

an absolute cheesecake of a sports blog

England are a mere distraction to the main event

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AFTER all the hype the World Cup has finally begun, but France v Uruguay, the first match most people will have watched, was very, very dull.

Yet I, and presumably most other people, persisted with the game between two teams we do not really care about.

And this is the essence of the World Cup.

Abou Diaby and some Uruguayan dude do battle in hopefully the worst game of the 2010 World Cup

A letter in Thursday’s Daily Mail read: “Wouldn’t it be great if TV coverage of the World Cup was limited to England’s games, those of hosts South Africa and of the tournament’s ‘big guns’.

“Then we would be spared the ordeal of having to sit through a match between Bongo Bongoland and the Former Soviet Republic of Bulimia and other meaningless events.”

Typical Daily Mail reader – the World Cup is ruined by too many foreigners.

But Mike Phelps, from Yeovil, Somerset, (presumably not the swimmer, because I do not think he’s from Yeovil) has missed the point entirely, especially as there are no former Soviet republics in the World Cup.

The World Cup is all about the foreigners.

South Korea v Greece. Serbia v Ghana. New Zealand v Slovakia. Any game featuring North Korea. These are the games most worth seeing.

You would never watch these sides under any other circumstances, but stick the match on terrestrial TV and it becomes an unmissable appointment.

Mr Phelps still admits that despite his misgivings he will still be sitting through the games he refers to as “meaningless”, either that or his television features no off button.

The England games are a mere distraction, something for the part-timers and the media (who cater for the part-timers) to get worked up about.

In Thursday’s Times Frank Skinner admitted that England’s fortunes mattered little to him, compared to the fortunes of his club side West Bromwich Albion.

He said: “If someone said they were an England fan first and foremost, I would not take them very seriously.

“The club are your bedrock of football love, that’s where you pay your dues and earn your right to be an England football fan.

“England is the icing on the cake. I care more about West Brom.”

Skinner also said that he does not associate England with disappointment like most people do, he finds watching them glamourous and exciting, as he gets to support players such as Wayne Rooney, which does not happen at West Brom.

Although West Brom have just achieved their biennial promotion, half of the time Skinner, like me, supports a lower league club.

And I share his feelings of glamour and excitement, yet mainly supporting England leaves me feeling slightly seedy.

Because no Huddersfield Town player has ever had his personal life spread across the pages of the tabloids, I can cling to the hope that they might not be nobheads, whereas I am well past that point with John Terry, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard.

The Guardian’s Tim Dowling implored fellow non-football fans to get involved with the action in his column on Wednesday.

He wrote: “Let the red and white tide wash over you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about the sport. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t care.

“The World Cup is entry-level football supporting. You needn’t worry too much about the rules, the draw, the pitch, the squad or the group.

“Enjoy the spectacle. Drink the beer.”

Whether you are a fan or not, whatever your team, whatever your country, whatever the game, his last line is good advice.

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